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tv   NBC Bay Area News Special  NBC  January 4, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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you're watching an nbc bay area news special. tonight, class action. >> they're when they depend on them. >> a new online school based in the bay area promises an ivy league education at a fraction of the cost. >> i just wanted to win. >> we talk to members of the first freshman class to see if minerva lives up to the hype. >> really out of all the other option it was not comparable. kids and computers. >> code.org lit the fire under so many people. >> elementary school students from east palo alto get a jump on computer science education week. >> thank you so much. thank you. and a white house call to
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action for colleges. >> this should not be a democratic issue or a republican issue. >> a bay area university pledges to double the number of graduates in one key field. now here is nbc bay area's jessica aguirre. hello and welcome to our class action education special. well begin tonight with a provocative question. can you get a great college education without stepping foot in a classroom? a new school in san francisco is promising just that. now, we first told you about the minerva project last year when the startup recruited investors and world renowned academics. now they have recruited students too. the founding class of freshmen is now enrolled at minerva. >> i don't remember which one you have said this. >> reporter: a 17-year-old college student from san diego who is debating his college classmates online. >> they're going to have a very big advantage when they depend on them. >> reporter: when he applied to college he got into selective schools like ucla berkeley and
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nyu. but he chose minerva, a new school based in san francisco. >> i just wanted the win. >> the opportunity to be part of the founding class and to co-create my experience is something that i'm not going find anywhere else. >> reporter: minerva is unique in many ways there is no campus. most of the students in the first class come from overseas. and the courses they take are entirely online. >> most people would think that this is really difficult to do to be accustomed to having classes online. and i think it's a fabulous experience. i'm really engaged. >> reporter: minerva students live together in one building in san francisco. starting in their second year they'll move to a different city every semester. >> i'll be going to buenos aires and berlin for my sophomore year. and then after that the plan is to go to hong kong and mumbai for junior year and new york and london for the last year. >> i think to understand the world's biggest problems we need to live in different cities and see the different problems that people have and how they try to
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follow them. >> reporter: a former harvard dean heads up academics at minerva. >> what we have done is basically pushed the reset button for the 21st century. we can start over and do what we think makes sense in a way you simply can't do in an established institution. >> reporter: for a generation of students who grew up online taking a new kind of college experience isn't so far-fetched. >> i like the idea of redefining what it means to go through this experience. >> reporter: so the tuition at minerva, $10,000. and that is cheaper than uc and about a quarter of the cost of an ivy league school. the founding class of minerva is just 28 students. but next year more than 200 students will spend their freshman year in san francisco before heading out across the globe. okay. sticking with online ed, this week millions of students across the country are trying their hand at one hour of computer programing. it's called the hour of code. a group of elementary school kids from east palo alto have a
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jump-start on things, though. they've been coding every day bright ander early rain or shine. we visited them as they geared up for the hour of code. >> i like it. come here early in the morning. >> reporter: the rain can't dampen the turnout among the early birds at brentwood academy in east palo alto. >> yay! >> amazing. >> thank you. >> reporter: this morning coding club meets before school. and that week the students have a special assignment. >> the whole school will be doing our code. >> reporter: their teacher, ms. smith, is preparing them to help other students during the hour of code. >> this is too hard. >> reporter: she is going to send us to the lab or the classes to help them log on. >> if you're helping a kindergarten, first grade or second or even third grade you might want to try course 1. >> reporter: the hour of code is a nationwide effort by code.org
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to expose students to computer programing during computer science education week. >> code.org lit the fire under so many people. >> reporter: millions of students are expected to participate in the hour of code part of a larger trend boosting coding in the classroom all the way through high school. >> everyone gets a chance to try programing. >> 25 state news offer computer sciences or math or science requirement where a year or two ago it was less than half of that. >> reporter: there is no need to convince these young coders of the benefits of computer science, though. >> can take it to the next level and have more stuff when you learn more about technology. >> reporter: they already turned the hour of code into coding every day. >> i think you're going to be good. >> i think they're going to be good. now wade like to give a special shout out to the computer club teacher allison smith. she started the hour of code last year in part because many of her students don't have access to computers at home. and now she comes in early every
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morning on her own time to do it. so go allison. some follow-ups now on stories we've been following on class action. advocates for free preschool for all say it's full steam ahead. this despite the recent legislative setback. the push for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds failed in sacramento earlier this year. but preschool champions are back at it. on the very first day of the new legislative session, they introduced an effort to expand preschool access to all low income children. a field poll showed strong support. a new movie about boys premiers next month at the sundance film festival. we talked to seabolt. she is turning the spotlight on boys and the definition of masculinity that she says damages our children. >> we have constructed an idea of masculinity in the united states that doesn't give young
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boys a way to feel secure in their masculinity. so we make them go prove it all the time. >> the movie is called "the mask you live in. it has nearly four million views on youtube, ahead of its debut in january. we're just getting started with clothe class action." when we come back can a school require parents to volunteer? the answer might surprise you.
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and welcome back to our "class action" education special. america has long been called the land of opportunity, but that opportunity hasn't always been there for everyone who wants to go to college. low income students and minorities face many hurdles getting to college and staying in college too. but that may be beginning to change. last week president obama hosted the second white house college opportunity day of action in washington, d.c. now the day-long summit aims to
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boost the number of disadvantaged students in higher ed. >> this should not be a democratic issue or a republican issue making sure more of our young people have access to higher education and can exceed and complete their work and get their degree. that has to be an american issue. >> colleges across the country attended the summit and one of those was dominican university of california. it's a private school in san rafael. dominican pledged to double the number of students graduate in stem. . we're talking science technology engineering and math. we're going to turn our attention to volunteering in school. if you're a public school parent you probably know about volunteering. that's when parents help out in the classroom. you cut things up you clean things out, you go to chaperon field trips. nothing new. the issue at hand now, can schools require parents to volunteer? i'm joined by a woman who says no they cannot. hillary hamel is a lawyer with public advocates.
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it's a civil rights organization in san francisco. now hillary, you were looking specifically at charter schools. i have been a volunteer at my school for a long time. it's a public school. i know i sign up. i volunteer. but i know i have the option not to do it. but you're looking at charter schools which people sometimes get confused. a charter school is a public school? >> that's right. charter schools are public schools. and under california law, a public school cannot charge tuition and it can't charge fees. the law also makes clear that requiring parents to donate services is equivalent to charging them a fee. >> right. >> and over 100 charter schools are doing this. they're telling parents you must agree to donate a mandatory quota of volunteer hours. and parents who can't do that don't enroll in those schools. >> it's interesting because private schools for a long time have been setting up contracts with parents saying you either have to donate this amount of money or you have to be able to
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volunteer. but this whole idea of a charter school doing it is really unusual. i mean how did you get tipped off to this? how did you find tout about it? >> we heard about it from parents. public advocates represents low income community groups often communities of color. and we have long fought or the educational equity. we're very interested on what is going on in the ground when vulnerable families who are struggling every single day are very excited there is a new charter school in the community. but then they find out you have to give them this mandatory quota of hours, or your child won't be allowed to go on a field trip or your child won't be allowed to walk in graduation. that was concerning to us but it can disproportionately harm some of our state's most vulnerable kids. >> how does a charter school think they can get away with this? how do they think they can skirt the law when it's very clear in the public education code that it has to be free? >> well we don't think the law is as clear as it should be. that's why we're asking the california department of education to issue clear guidelines and a guidance that tells all public schools in the
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state, charter schools included that you can ask for parents to volunteer and you can encourage it and strongly suggest they volunteer. but it crosses the line when they say it's required. >> what about the issue? you're talking about the charter schools. you see a lot of the charter schools. and really, they are a hope a lot of times for minority families you. think my michigan school isn't doing so well. but there is this little beacon of hope where i can get my kid in and hopefully they'll be good down the road. why are we seeing it's especially hard for the parents, because a lot of times parents don't have the money to donate or they're working two and three jobs and can't show up to go to the field trip. >> exactly. that's what is so problematic about this. charter schools are supposed to improve opportunity. the promise of charter schools is they're going to go into communities where there is a lot of disadvantaged families and offer innovative educational option smaller schools, smaller class sizes. they offer a lot of great resources that a lot of families can benefit from. when they're supposed to be the beacon of opportunity, instead they put up barriers and they tell some kids if your parents
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can't do 50 hours of service you aren't welcome here. >> yeah that's humiliating for child. >> and it's counter to the whole promise of charter schools. and it sets up a have and have not system which is counter to what we're supposed to be doing in california and our school system anyway. >> exactly. it leaves out families who might be the most struggling families foster kid, all kinds of very vulnerable students are aren't going to get in the door. >> what has been the response from the charter school community when you contacted them about this? >> well, the california charter school association sat down with us and told us they wanted to work together. they agree with us that you can't finalize a kid if the parent can't do service. i think they understand that we can mainstream best practices among charter schools by encouraging or celebrating parent involvement. but i think they're going to work with their members to ensure that charter schools don't have policies that are illegal on party or on practice. do. >> you have a legal action to go after a charter school that may be violating this? >> our first goal is to work together with the state, with
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charter schools so that everybody understand the law. you should think about if you're a school you should think about volunteering parent service as donation of money. >> right. >> you can ask for it but you can't say it's mandatory. >> just like sometimes when you go on a field trip and the field trip costs money, you ask for the parents to give the donation, and you often ask can you cover another child's donation. but it has to be a zone nation. >> right there. is a difference between calling something a price and calling something a suggested donation. >> what where do we go from here? what has been the state's response? >> we're hoping to meet with the state very soon. we have a meeting with them coming up. we're optimistic they're going to work with us. they issued a statement they're grateful to public advocates. we think that's great and nobody disagrees about what the law says, and nobody wants kids to be excluded from a public school on this basis. >> and what should a parent, if a parent gets confronted by this at their charter school that they go to what should be the line that they should be close
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organize who should they be speaking to make sure this is clarified in their own school? >> well that. >> should tell the school you can't require me to volunteer for a quota of hours. it's illegal. and they should contact us. go to publicadvocates.org to learn more about this research that we did. but schools should not ever be excludeing a parent or giving a kid less privileges or less access to educational opportunity if the parents didn't do as many hours as the school might like. >> we certainly hope parents are out there listening. and if they're not advocating for themselves hopefully they're advocating for the other parent that is in the classroom with them that may not know this information. thanks for doing the great work and research for us. all right. we're going to be right back with more.
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and welcome back to our class action special.
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colleges across california offer classes and majors in what is called ethnic studies. actually ethnic studies have been around for 40 years, and the bay area is actually its birthplace. now san francisco's board of education approved a plan this week to offer ethnic studies to all high school students. but in south san francisco they have expanded ethnic studies for ninth graders. and not everyone supports that move. class is just getting started at south san francisco high school. >> everyone brought their tree of life yes? >> yes. >> reporter: mr. de la cruz's students are learning about ethnic studies. and today they're sharing a tree of life. >> the roots are the values like family or love or hope. >> reporter: they also write about topics like race, violence, and sexuality. >> the projects we've been doing so far kind of gets you closer and gets to know more about the people around you.
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you figure out that not everybody is the same. >> reporter: and that's the crux of this class. the idea everyone is not the same. ethnic studies is a semester long examination of identity. >> if you're an immigrant, it is hard to come here right away? >> yes. >> yes? maybe? >> reporter: mr. de la cruz covers topics like the challenges facing immigrants. >> racism, language barriers learning the culture, being away from who? your family right? >> i prefer to consider us all americans. >> reporter: the president of the conservative forum of silicon valley opposes ethnic studies because he says it draws attention to ethnic identity. >> our nation is founded on principles of freedom, individual liberty. and we are a meritorious society. we really don't care your ethnic background. we just want to know what can
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you do for us for our society at large. >> reporter: his opposition to ethnic studies is not unique. >> the students united will never be dwighted. >> reporter: in tucson mexican studies was banned in 2011 amid vocal protests of high school students. while the classes at south san francisco haven't generated heated debate here, the students and teachers now know they're on the front lines. >> everybody human being knows how the adapt, right? that's part of being a human. >> now ethnic studies at south san francisco is an elective. there are no districts in the bay area that require ethnic studies. but los angeles unified, the largest school district in california and the second largest school district in the country recently put into place a new graduation requirement for ethnic studies. and that goes into effect in 2019. it is well documented in california that latino kids often arrive at kindergarten behind their peers in english
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and other subjects. it's a disadvantage that can persist for years to come. but it turns out even at a very early age, latino students have skills that are often overlook and that could help them catch up. >> in five seconds, everyone should be ready. >> reporter: in many way, the kindergarten is a representation of the shifting demographics of california. more than half of the students at this school -- >> as many circles -- >> reporter: and statewide are latino. latino students as a whole have historically lagged behind their pierce. >> you guys did a really fantastic job. about ten more minutes. >> reporter: but research is shedding new light on a little known strength. >> cut out one more. >> i did the pumpkins and the chocolate. >> reporter: the common perception about language delays lower english proficiency, somewhat lower cognitive skills, problem solving skills that's all true. that's empirically born out in
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our findings. >> i need your magazines to be closed up. it's okay that the pages are going to be torn. we're going to use them again another day. >> the surprising finding is that doesn't track against their social skills. >> clear? go. >> on your table. see the pile that leslie is making? >> reporter: latino children have on average strong social and emotional skills. >> when i say go you're going to go to the next pages. on your mark. >> reporter: they show for kindergarten mature. they respect their teachers. >> go! >> reporter: they're ready to share. >> are you missing a number? >> i need a one and a two. >> reporter: and to learn. >> what comes after four? >> five. >> reporter: what we're realizing now, as i talk to my kindergarten teachers is that when looking even at the classes that we had here at beresford, both classes, the kids that were really ready socially were latino families, children. that just tells us that things are changing. >> reporter: the principal says latino families increasingly take advantage of education
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opportunities before age 5, including free transitional kindergarten. >> we thought it would be hard for him. no. very happy. he wants to come every day. >> reporter: she says her daughter went to a year of preschool which she says really helped a lot. and she says she and her husband are committed to helping with homework at home. and it's that environment at home that may be having the biggest impact at school. >> it's a real different mind shift. and it's extremely important for us to look at it differently and to have a different attitude about how we embrace the latino families when they come to our doors. >> now here is a really interesting side note. research shows that latino children may actually be hesitant to speak up in class. educators say it's important to recognize that a quieter or shy latino child is not necessarily less prepared than his peers but sometimes they do it out of respect for the teachers and that it may be a cultural difference that keeps them from
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speaking out. back in a moment.
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well, if you have kids you know that school lunch is always a hot topic with students. and now it's getting some attention in the nation's capital as well. congress is taking some whole grain foods off the lunch menu. the federal spend thing bill on tuesday ease federal standards that require more whole grains in school lunches. we're talking about whole wheat pasta. the measure also put off rules to lower sodium in meals starting in 2017. now the bill does not allow schools to opt out of healthier school meal standards, but it would ease standards that require more whole grains in school foods. some school districts want to
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abandon the federal school lunch standards, say they're too costly and too restrictive and that kids don't always like the food. okay. we would like to mention that now that we're doing "class action" in spanish on our sister station, telemundo. you can actually catch my segments on wednesday night and on the telemundo website. that's going to do it for this "class action" news special. thanks for watching. we'll see you next time.
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. a a classic mystery on a college campus, a student murdered. >> he did it and he took off. >> a puzzling crime scene sends police on a frantic search to identify the killer and the victim. >> it was just like wow. >> what happened that night in the dorm? but first, a special hour of "date line," starting over. a new year, a new beginning. think how much you eat or drink depends on how hungry or thirsty you are. >> it's all psychological. >> how you can lose weight by making simple changes. >> you guys ready to eat? >> not in what you eat and drink but how.

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